UC HEALTH LINE: New 'Individualized' Treatments Tackle Alcohol Dependence
A new generation of approved drugs designed to act on the part of the brain that controls cravings may improve the lives of people struggling with alcohol dependence.
First recognized as a disease 50 years ago, alcoholism has long been treated exclusively through counseling or mutual support groups.
Robert Anthenelli, MD, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati (UC) with an appointment at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center, says that while support and counseling are key components to overcoming alcoholism, oftentimes medication is also needed.
“Research on currently approved medications shows that patients are responding to pills that regulate cravings,” he says.
The shift toward treatment in the form of a pill, says Dr. Anthenelli, also presents a new opportunity for patient-physician communication.
“With these new tools, health-care providers can work with patients to take control of a disease that for a long time seemed impossible to treat in the doctor’s office,” he says.
This new approach was reinforced in July, when the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) issued a clinician’s guide for caring for patients with heavy drinking and alcohol abuse disorders.
Dr. Anthenelli, director of the Tristate Tobacco and Alcohol Research Center (Tri-TARC), has conducted clinical trials on many of the approved medications on the market today and continues to study novel medications. He is now leading a five-year study to determine how an alcohol-dependent person’s genes influence response to medication.
Funded by the NIAAA, the study will attempt to match the elements of a person’s individual genetic blueprint with specific medications.
“We’re making important strides by developing new medications to treat alcoholism,” Dr. Anthenelli says, “but the next frontier is to try to better personalize therapies based on that individual’s genetic profile.”
According to the NIAAA, 17.6 million Americans suffer from alcohol dependence or abuse, but in a given year, only 12 percent receive treatment.
With many new treatment options, says Dr. Anthenelli, there should be no reason for patients to suffer from this devastating disease.
“It’s important to know where to find help for alcohol and other substance abuse,” says Dr. Anthenelli. “September is National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, so we encourage people to seek out treatment programs for themselves or their loved ones and talk to physicians about new medications.”
To learn more about alcohol dependence or current clinical trials at UC, call Tri-TARC at (877)-TRI-TARC—(877) 874-8272—or (513) 558-7179.
For more information on this and other health-care issues, visit NetWellness at www.netwellness.org. A nonprofit health information Web site, NetWellness is provided as a public service by the University of Cincinnati, Case Western Reserve University and Ohio State University.
“UC Health Line” provides timely health information and is distributed every Tuesday by the UC Academic Health Center Public Relations and Communications Office.